UNSCO at a Glance – A profile


UNSCO at a Glance

What is UNSCO?

UNSCO is the Office of the United Nations Special Coordinator in the Occupied Territories. It was established in June 1994 when the Secretary General of the United Nations appointed Mr Terje Rød-Larsen as Special Coordinator. The current Special Coordinator is Mr Chinmaya R. Gharekhan.

What is UNSCO's mandate?

The mandate of the Special Coordinator is to:

  • Provide overall guidance to and facilitate coordination among United Nations programmes in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
  • Represent the United Nations at donor coordination meetings and assist the Palestinian Authority and donors in coordinating international donor assistance.
  • Maintain contact with the many NGOs operational in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
  • Support the implementation of the Declaration of Principles at the request of the parties.
  • Represent the Secretary-General at multilateral working groups set up under the Palestinian-Israeli Peace Accords.

How is UNSCO structured?

The substantive work of UNSCO is carried out by the following units:

1. The United Nations Coordination Unit
2. The Donor Coordination Unit
3. The Economic and Social Monitoring Unit
4. The Legal Unit
5. The Media and NGO Liaison Unit



On 13 September 1993, the Government of Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization signed the Declaration of Principles on Interim Self-Government Arrangements at the White House in Washington, DC. The Declaration of Principles, widely known as the Oslo Accords after the Norwegian capital where the main negotiations had taken place, established a five-year timetable during which Israeli-Palestinian negotiations were to be completed. The Declaration of Principles also provided the framework for these negotiations, identifying the principles on which future negotiations would be based and detailing the issues to be discussed between the two sides during the five-year transitional period.

Recognizing that social and economic advancement for Palestinians would be a necessary condition for the continued success of the peace process, the Secretary-General formed a High Level Task Force on the Socio-Economic Development of the Gaza Strip and Jericho which identified how the United Nations could expand its programmes of assistance in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The Task Force, which completed its work on 23 September 1993, highlighted the need to implement projects that would quickly make a visible improvement in the daily lives of Palestinians and stressed the importance of continuing to support on-going programmes which contribute to Palestinian socio-economic well-being. At the time, United Nations activities, particularly through the United Nations Relief and Work Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA), accounted for approximately one-half of public sector spending in the Gaza Strip and one-third in the West Bank.

On 1 October 1993, over 40 donor countries and institutions, including the United Nations, gathered at the Washington, DC, Conference to Support Middle East Peace. The Conference, hosted by the United States, affirmed the urgent need for improving living conditions and making rapid progress towards sustainable socio-economic development in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Donors pledged approximately $2.4 billion, which would be disbursed over the five years of the transitional period.

In June 1994, United Nations Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali appointed Ambassador Terje Rrd-Larsen of Norway as Special Coordinator in the Occupied Territories. His mandate, to assist in both the political and socio-economic aspects of the peace process, marked a new stage in the United Nations long-standing commitment to peace in the region.
In February 1997, Mr. Chinmaya R. Gharekhan, a former Indian Ambassador/Permanent Representative to the United Nations and UN Under-Secretary-General since January 1993, was appointed Special Coordinator to succeed Mr. Terje Rrd-Larsen. Mr. Gharekhan is also designated as the Secretary-General=s representative to the multilateral track of the peace process.


The Special Coordinator serves as the focal point within the United Nations for activities undertaken in the context of the October 1993 Conference to Support Middle East Peace as well as for relations with the donor community and the World Bank. At the request of the Government of Israel and the Palestinian Authority, he supports the implementation of the 1993 Declaration of Principles, the "Oslo Accords".


The Special Coordinator provides overall guidance to United Nations programmes and agencies in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, both those with representation in the field and those based abroad. The Special Coordinator facilitates coordination within the United Nations family to ensure that the Organization=s overall approach to socio-economic development is integrated and unified, and targets priorities identified by the Palestinian Authority.

Prior to the signing of the Declaration of Principles, there were three United Nations organizations with an ongoing presence in the West Bank and Gaza Strip; UNICEF, UNDP and UNRWA. A number of additional agencies and programmes assisted Palestinians through collaborative efforts with these three organizations.

Since 1993, the number of United Nations organizations providing assistance in the West Bank and Gaza Strip has increased to 29; 15 of these have offices in the area. Total United Nations disbursements in 1996 including ongoing projects and regular budgets was approximately US$ 245 million covering virtually all areas of socio-economic development. Amongst other things, the United Nations is involved in: constructing health centers and training health personnel; supporting primary and preparatory schools and vocational and teacher training centres; carrying out clean up campaigns and emergency job creation schemes; assisting womens cooperatives; rehabilitating drinking wells; building roads, water and sewerage systems; providing loans to small businesses; training public sector officials and policemen; and strengthening human rights and the rule of law.

The Special Coordinator has established a system-wide mechanism for the coordination of United Nations assistance to the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. In December 1994, the Special Coordinator held the first inter-agency meeting to take place in the Gaza Strip which was attended by representatives of some 24 United Nations agencies and programmes. Inter-agency meetings are held annually to ensure that all UN agencies active in the West Bank and Gaza Strip are able to contribute their ideas and strategies while at the same time enhancing complementarity and avoiding overlap.

At its inter-agency meetings, the United Nations finalizes its programme of assistance for the coming year. This programme, highlighting the UN=s expertise and experience in social development and capacity building, is designed to address the needs and priorities identified by the Palestinian Authority, and are submitted to donor countries for possible funding.

The Office of the United Nations Special Coordinator facilitates inter-agency coordination locally as well as system-wide. United Nations agencies and programmes with offices on the ground meet approximately once a month. These local UN coordination meetings provide an opportunity for United Nations agencies and programmes to exchange information on experiences in the field and discuss priorities.


The Special Coordinator represents the United Nations at the main donor-coordination body, called the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee (AHLC) which was formed after the October 1993 Conference to Support Middle East Peace. The AHLC is the principal mechanism for coordination at the level of donor and regional capitals, the Palestinian Authority, the Government of Israel and the United Nations and the World Bank. The AHLC meets several times per year and discusses policy-related matters. The World Bank is Secretariat to the AHLC.

At the suggestion of the United Nations Special Coordinator in November 1994, the AHLC decided to set up a coordination structure in the West Bank and Gaza Strip as well. This step was taken in recognition of the urgency of expediting programmes of assistance on the ground in response to deteriorating living conditions among Palestinians. The Local Aid Coordination Committee (LACC) first met in December 1994. By mid-1996, some 30 donor countries with representation in the area were attending the monthly meetings of the LACC. The United Nations Special Coordinator is one of three co-chairs, along with representatives of Norway and the World Bank. The meetings mainly focus on current political and socio-economic developments affecting the donor-funded programmes of assistance.

Also upon the recommendation of the Special Coordinator, the LACC established 11 technical sub-committees, called Sector Working Groups, covering; agriculture, education, employment generation, environment, health, infrastructure and housing, institution building, police, private sector, public finance.

The role of the Sector Working Groups is to contribute to the process of setting Palestinian-identified priorities. These priorities, in turn, are used by donors in their funding decisions and by the principal implementing agencies, such as the United Nations and the World Bank, in the development of their proposed activities. Each Sector Working Group is composed of a lead donor (called the Shepherd), a Palestinian Authority representative (as Gavel Holder), and a secretariat. The United Nations functions as secretariat (alone or jointly with the World Bank) for most of the sector working groups. All donors interested in a particular sector are members of the Sector Working Group. NGOs and others are invited to participate on an ad hoc basis. UNSCO has also recruited specialists to assist in coordination of support to the police and to the justice sector.

On an annual basis, the Palestinian Authority, the World Bank and the United Nations submit specific projects to donors for funding. These requests for funding are presented at World Bank-led meetings of the >Consultative Group for the West Bank and Gaza Strip=. These meetings are attended by all donor governments and institutions providing assistance to the Palestinian Authority and the Palestinian people. The Special Coordinator represents the United Nations at Consultative Group meetings.

Since the 1 October 1993 Conference to Support Middle East Peace, additional pledges have been made to support socio-economic development for the Palestinian people. The total amount of assistance available from donor countries as of August 1996 was about US$ 2.955 billion. Of this amount, approximately US$ 2 billion has been committed to specific projects and over US$ 1 billion has actually been disbursed.

NGO Project

The United Nations Special Coordinator also remains in close contact with non-governmental organizations (NGOs). In early 1997, UNSCO published two separate NGO directories. The first directory gives basic information in Arabic and English on some 150 Palestinian and international NGOs operating in the Gaza Strip. The second directory, also in both languages, provides information on 170 NGOs based in donor countries which support development activities in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

The Special Coordinator has also begun to develop other areas of cooperation with NGOs. In 1996, UNSCO facilitated several NGO workshops and conferences and participated in network meetings. UNSCO continues to provide information on NGOs to UN agencies, donors and others and helps to create more transparency regarding NGO development efforts.

In a related initiative, the Special Coordinator, is seeking to establish closer contacts with the community, by facilitating activities. UNSCO assisted the Gaza Municipality in its 1996 environmental awareness campaign and is working with the Gaza Municipality, the Center for Educational Development (a local NGO) and a Norwegian foundation on the development of a children's park and activities center to be located in the Tuffah neighbourhood of Gaza City.


At the request of the Palestinian Authority and the Government of Israel, the Special Coordinator assists the parties in the implementation of the 1993 Declaration of Principles and subsequent agreements.

For example, in September 1993, PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat asked the Secretary-General for United Nations assistance in the establishment and training of the Palestinian Police Force. Since then, the United Nations has undertaken to coordinate international assistance in training the police force. UNSCO has a specialist Police Adviser on its staff to assist in coordinating police training. Since 1995, UNSCO has been assisting the Palestinian Police Force and the donors in the establishment of a professional police academy. Between September 1994 and July 1996, UNSCO and UNRWA worked together to provide a financial bridging mechanism for donor funds contributed towards the salary and other running costs of the Palestinian Police Force. The Police Adviser continues to assist UNSCO, the Palestinian Police Force and the donor community in training and equipment.

Finally, the Special Coordinator offers his good offices whenever the parties consider that his assistance might be useful in helping advance the peace process. This occurred, for example, at various points during the 1995 negotiations on the Interim Agreement; in the period following the suicide bombings in Israel in early 1996 and the subsequent imposition of closure on the West Bank and Gaza Strip; and in helping establish the framework that led to the 4 September 1996 meeting between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and PLO Chairman and Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat.


To carry out his mandate, the Special Coordinator has established five substantive units: the United Nations Coordination Unit; the Donor Coordination Unit; the Economic and Social Monitoring Unit; the Legal Unit and the NGO and Media Liaison Unit.

The United Nations Coordination Unit organizes the regular local inter-agency meetings and the annual inter-agency meetings held at UNSCO. Each year it compiles the UN programme of cooperation document with the aim of fulfilling UNSCO=s mandate of devising an integrated and coordinated UN approach to development. The unit is also responsible for the preparation of the ECOSOC Report on UN system assistance to the Palestinian people, which is requested annually by a General Assembly resolution. For more information contact Ray Dolphin and Rana Zakout.

The Donor Coordination Unit carries out UNSCO's secretariat functions to the Local Aid Coordination Committee and the Sector Working Groups. Ferdinand Smit is Head of Unit, assisted by Tania Banotti, Bassem Khaldi and Marina Throne-Holst.

As a service to the development effort, the Special Coordinator established an Economic and Social Monitoring Unit in mid-1996. The Unit provides information and analysis on socio-economic conditions and trends in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Working in close cooperation with the Palestinian Authority, the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, Palestinian research organizations, the Unit produces quarterly reports focusing on developments in the Palestinian macroeconomy, labour market, household living levels, as well as other social indicators. Salem Ajluni is Head of Unit assisted by Husam Zomlot and Khaled Islaieh.

The Legal Sector: UNSCO's work in this sector is based upon a growing realization on the part of partners in the development process that, in many respects, the rule of law is the glue which binds the entire development mosaic. It is by now seen as axiomatic that the strengthening of the rule of law is a sine qua non for enhanced donor confidence, secure private investment, and the promotion and protection of human rights, all vital objectives to which the Palestinian Authority has stated its firm commitment.

To these ends, UNSCO added to its staff an Adviser on Human Rights and Policy, Craig Mokhiber . The Adviser, works with the Palestinian Authority and the various assistance coordination fora, to facilitate coordinated project formulation, implementation, monitoring and evaluation on the part of all actors involved in the process, to the benefit of a more efficient, complementary, and effective overall programme for rule of law development.

The Media and NGO Liaison Unit was set up to implement the terms of reference which requires UNSCO to maintain contacts with NGOs and to provide information and circulate publications to members of the local and international press. This work is carried out by Marwan Ali and Kirsten Maas.


DDSMS Department for Development Support and Management Services
ESCWA Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia
FAO Food and Agriculture Organization
HABITAT United Nations Centre for Human Settlements
IAEA International Atomic Energy Agency
ICAO International Civil Aviation Organization
IFAD International Fund for Agricultural Development
ILO International Labour Organisation
IMO International Maritime Organization
ITC International Trade Centre
ITU International Telecommunication Union
UNCTAD United Nations Conference on Trade and Development
UNDCP United Nations Drug Control Programme
UNDP United Nations Development Programme
UNEP United Nations Environment Programme
UNESCO United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization
UNFPA United Nations Population Fund
UNHC/CHR United Nations High Commisioner/ Centre for Human Rights
UNICEF United Nations Children's Fund
UNIDO United Nations Industrial Development Organization

UNIFEM United Nations Development Fund for Women
UNITAR United Nations Institute for Training and Research
UNRWA United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East
UNSCO United Nations Special Coordinator in the Occupied Territories
UNV United Nations Volunteers
UPU Universal Postal Union
WFP World Food Programme
WHO World Health Organization

August 1997

Office of the United Nations Special Coordinator in the Occupied Territories

Document Type: Report
Document Sources: United Nations Special Coordinator in the Occupied Territories (UNSCO)
Subject: Assistance, Economic issues, Social issues
Publication Date: 31/08/1997

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